Mon, Nov 29, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Japan may grant visa-exempt status

TRIAL PERIOD Japan is mulling a six-month test that would allow Taiwanese tourists to enter the country without visas, with a view to making it permanent later

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Japanese government is considering the possibility of granting Taiwanese tourists visa-exempt entry permanently after a planned six-month test period next year to lift the current visa restrictions, a leading Japanese newspaper reported yesterday.

The Japanese government will propose to the Diet to amend its Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act early next year to implement a new visa policy for Taiwanese tourists, the Yomiuri Shimbun said.

The law stipulates that visa-exempt entry is only available to Japan's diplomatic allies. The report said although a significant number of foreign tourists arriving in Japan are from Taiwan and South Korea, Japan can not lift the present visa restrictions because of the law.

The visa policy aims to attract more Taiwanese tourists to tour the World Exposition in Aichi, which runs from March 25 to Sept. 25.

The exposition is expected to draw 1.5 million tourists from all over the world and is dubbed an occasion to bring together global talent to create a model community for the future where humans can live in harmony with nature.

Around 300,000 Taiwanese tourists are expected to attend the exposition, according to the report.

The report noted the Japanese government will decide whether to prolong the visa-exempt entry for Taiwanese tourists after the exposition.

The Japanese government exercises visa exemptions for Chinese tourists, but grants only a three-day landing visa for Taiwanese tourists. The Taiwanese government, however, allows Japanese tourists to stay for three weeks on a landing visa when they come to Taiwan.

At the APEC summit in Chile earlier this month, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi confirmed to Taiwan's envoy Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) that Japan is considering granting Taiwanese tourists visa exemptions during the exposition.

Su Cherng-tyan (蘇成田), director general of the government's Tourism Bureau, said yesterday that Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Ling-san (林陵三) told Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara that the government hoped Japan can loosen its visa restrictions on Taiwanese tourists during his visit to Taiwan last month.

"For years we have been lobbying the Japanese government to grant us visa exemptions, as we have allowed their tourists to stay for three weeks on a landing visa when they come here," Su said.

"But Japan has not lifted visa restrictions on Taiwanese tourists. Our people have to spend money applying for visas to travel to Japan. Recently, there seems to be some sign that Japan is reviewing its visa policy toward Taiwan," he added.

Su noted the visa exemptions would benefit Taiwanese tourists and encourage more of them to travel to Japan.

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